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Research – more details

Modelled 3D plume over deep-sea mining site, Drs. Aleynik and Dale, SAMS.

Modelled 3D plume over deep-sea mining site, Drs. Aleynik and Dale, SAMS.

MASTS NEHM members are involved in research projects covering a broad range of topics, from computational fluid dynamics (CFD) of tidal energy devices, to coastal modelling, as well as more fundamental modelling studies of the processes behind hydrographic flow. A selection of these are detailed below.

FLOWBEC – FLOW and Benthic Ecology 4D

Principal Investigator (Edinburgh) / contact: Dr. Angus Creech

NERC (NE/J004359/1) funded project, investigating the potential of tidal wave energy harnessing devices on the marine environment. Detailed numerical simulation of a dual rotor tidal turbine was carried (Edinburgh) and benthic surveys were conducted around the SeaGen tidal turbine in Strangford Narrows (Galway), to try to understand how changes to water flow and turbulence introduced by tidal technology might affect the various types of marine wildlife. 

Related publications:

  • O’carroll, J. P. J., Kennedy, R. M., Creech, A. & Savidge, G. FLOWBEC: Assessing spatial variation in an epifaunal community in relation to the turbulent wake created by a tidal energy turbine, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2016 (submitted).
  • Creech, A., Borthwick, A. & Ingram, D. The effects of supporting structures on an actuator line model of a tidal turbine with contra-rotating rotors. In preparation.

More information can be found here.

Large-scale Experiments on Wave Breaking hydrodynamics

Contact: Dominic Van der a

The aim of this work was to obtain knowledge of how turbulence generated by breaking waves affects the near bed (boundary) layer and the sediment transport processes. Having more knowledge about these processes will lead to improved hydrodynamic and morphodynamic models for the coastal zone.

Experiments were done in the 100m long large-scale CIEM wave flume at the Polytechnic University of Catalunya in Barcelona by an international team of researchers lead in the UK by the University of Aberdeen. Breaking wave hydro- and turbulence dynamics were measured along the beach profile using high-resolution acoustic (ADVP) and optical (LDA, PIV) measurement techniques. More info about the project can be found here.  The work has recently been extended through combined experimental and OpenFoam numerical work as part of the HYDRALAB+ TransNational Access project HYBRID

Check out some movies from this experiment here and here.

Modelling Tidal Energy in the Pentland Firth

Contact: Dr. Phil Gillibrand.

The Pentland Firth in northern Scotland, and its subsidiary channel the Inner Sound, are currently under scrutiny as the first tidal energy farm in the world is installed. The tidal flows in the channel and sound have been intensively observed and modelled in recent years, and the turbulent nature of the flow, with features of eddy generation and shedding, is becoming increasingly well known. Turbulence and eddies pose potential risks to the turbine infrastructure through enhanced stress on the blades, while understanding environmental effects of energy extraction also requires accurate simulation of the hydrodynamics of the flow. We are used a mixed finite element/finite volume hydrodynamic model, RiCOM, to simulate the hydrodynamics of the northern Scottish shelf, with a particular focus on flows through the Pentland Firth and Inner Sound.

Modelled difference in current speed (ΔS m/s) with 86 x 1 MW turbines installed in the leased area (─) during flood (left) and ebb (right) spring tides. Vectors show the disturbed flow field.


Contact (SAMS): Dr. Dmitry Aleynik

ASIMUTH aims to Develop forecasting capabilities to warn of impending harmful algal blooms (HABs). Through the ASIMUTH project, scientists and industry from 5 countries along Europe’s Atlantic Margin will form a network to produce the first realistic HAB advisory and forecasting capability as a  GMES downstream service to the European aquaculture industry. The early warning of severe blooms will allow fish and shellfish farmers to adapt their culture and harvesting practices in time, in order to reduce potential losses.

Related publications:

  • Aleynik, D. Davidson, K., Dale A. C., Porter, M.. A high resolution hydrodynamic model system
    suitable for novel harmful algal bloom modelling in areas of complex coastline and topography.
    Harmful Algae, 2016.

More information can be found here.

Advanced numerical methods for geophysical fluid dynamics

Contact: Dr. Magda Carr

The Vortex Dynamics Research Group at the University of St Andrews specialises in advanced numerical methods for studying fundamental aspects of geophysical fluid dynamics, with applications to both atmosphere and ocean dynamics.  The numerical methods exploit the conservation, or near conservation, of certain advected tracers such as potential vorticity.  For stably-stratified flows, material conservation permits one to represent three-dimensional distributions of such tracers by a set of material contours confined to isopycnal surfaces (in the absence of diapycnal mixing).  Then, the evolution of such tracers may be modelled in a simple, accurate and efficient manner by moving the points comprising each contour with the local velocity field.  This enables one to respect conservation without incurring any numerical diffusion.  Moreover, such contour methods, called “contour advection”, are inherently numerically stable – there is no CFL constraint on the time step.  Accuracy is the only criterion necessary for choosing the time step.

Modelled billow

Tidal Interactions: Orkney and Japan

Contact: Dr David Woolf

With support from the MASTS PECRE fund, a PhD student of Heriot-Watt University, Simon Waldman, based at ICIT in Orkney, spent 6 weeks in Japan in the summer of 2016, working at a Japanese University (Kyushu University, Fukuoka). The research addressed plans for tidal energy development in the Goto Islands, mimicking the developments in Orkney over the last decade or more.

The research used an ocean model, FVCOM, developed in the USA, but now widely adopted including in Scotland and Japan. Kyushu University already had built a model of the region, but Simon added a representation of proposed tidal stream turbines, using his own work within the “TeraWatt” project and an implementation for FVCOM developed by Rory O’Hara Murray at Marine Scotland Science.

Simon explains: “We were keen to apply the experience and numerical tools acquired in Scotland to a new problem. We were delighted to find that we could provide some convincing estimates of the power potential of the straits dividing the Goto Islands”. As with all research, not all the results were expected, Simon’s supervisor David Woolf noted: “previous research in Pentland Firth indicated that developments in parallel channels will interact strongly, but Simon has shown that this will not happen in the Goto Islands. It has been a lot of fun understanding this difference.”

If you are a MASTS NHM member and feel your project should be included here, please click on the ‘Get in touch’ button and send a request.

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